Preface: Most people would call a professional plumber when one or more pipes or appliances stop working correctly. Or perhaps they have a friend or family member who is handy in this regard. After striking out with those options, I decided to take matters into my own hands, thinking how hard could this possibly be? For your amusement and enlightenment, the following is a recap of my attempts.

The basic ingredients include, but are not limited to a clothes washing machine, a dishwasher, two toilets, a bathtub, two showers, two refrigerators, four sinks and a hot water heater. Add the furnace too, since in some parts of the house we have cast iron water-filled radiators.

In a house that is over 100 years old in some places, with an addition put on in the 1930's, then another one in the 1990's, it seems as if something is always breaking down, leaking, or gushing forth with unholy water. My husband, in the past, would use any excuse to go buy new parts at the local hardware store. However good he was at many things, plumbing was not one of them. I'm not criticising him; my own father was exactly the same. He would attempt to fix, for example a leaking kitchen sink, only to make matters much worse.

Since the progression of my husband's Alzheimer's has accelerated, I started going down into the old basement as well as the new one, searching for things that looked like plumbing tools and supplies. Total jackpot! The kitchen sink has been the biggest nuisance, continually dripping, wasting water. I started by turning off the hot and the cold faucets below the sink...made it worse. Got a flashlight and discovered a switch in the middle, which stopped not only the dripping but all water. This was after I had tried to tighten the faucet with a hex wrench with no success. This was also after I tried using some ancient plumbers' wax and a new water-saving faucet tip. In desperation one night, I hooked up a countertop water filtration device that had been purchased in the 1990's but had never been opened. The dripping somewhat stopped for a few days, but now I have this contraption that's always falling over. The dripping is less though, so I put a large plastic pitcher to catch the water, using it to make ice, cook, water my plants, give the cats filtered water. I think of it as an indoor rain barrel.

The clothes washing machine had the easiest solution and I can claim no credit, other than I asked my son-in-law if there were any used, but working washers in the barn. He said there was one the Sisters weren't happy with because it had no fabric softener compartment; that if I didn't mind "the lack of bells and whistles", I could have it. He and his brother took away my old one and installed the new one. Win.

Both toilets have basically the exact same problem, which is the rubber flapper doesn't close completely unless you jiggle the handle. Upstairs, I removed a clay mermaid and three starfish from the top of the tank and just lift off the top, manually pushing the flapper down. I finally ripped up the carpeting in that bathroom after the flooding incident. Ugly linoleum underneath and I still have to open up something my husband patched over, which is near the sewer vent pipe that starts as cast iron in the old basement, runs through a corner of the kitchen between the sink and the dishwasher, emerges next to the upstairs toilet where someone changed it to PVC pipe, then meets the ceiling and there is crumbling plaster. A mess.

Bathroom sinks: (downstairs) the cold water tap is loose, stripped-should-buy-a-new-one, a simple new little rubber washer not the answer, although I tried, as did my older son. It currently has a jar opener strap on it, tres chic...or you can just quickly wash your hands with the hot water only. Upstairs sink has a problem with the hot water handle, in that it rotates, hitting the splashboard...and the water keeps coming out. I think I know the solution to that, just haven't had the time. My husband can't hear that the water is still running, so that's on my list to fix today after waking up to scalding hot water streaming for who knows how long this morning. Wrench needed.

As for the refrigerators, one doesn't keep things cold enough and the other freezes things I don't want frozen, like lettuce and eggs. Ah, if it were only so simple as turning the dials, but I know they both need to be pulled out and have the condenser coils vacuumed. It is a two person job, so I've been moving the food back and forth until I can nab one of my sons to help me. Dust.

I have tested the furnace twice when the weather dipped down into the high 30's. We have three thermostats and only one works semi-accurately. Then, there's the bleeding of the old cast iron radiators, which must be done with a special key, that I currently cannot find. My fear is that I'll pay someone to replace the thermostats, then the old furnace will give up the ghost. Time for a woodstove test. Prayers accepted.